Studies how students form mental representations in chemistry.
Persistence in STEM fields is an important challenge facing post-secondary institutions. In particular, certain courses like organic chemistry can present students interested in STEM careers with steep obstacles. Through my doctoral work and my career after defense, I hope to research ways to target domain-specific strains on student cognition and improve learning outcomes through carefully designed and implemented software interventions.
The Connected Chemistry Curriculum, I currently work with Dr. Mike Stieff in studying how students form internal mental representations in organic chemistry. The project has systematically studied students’ mental representations of molecules by observing gesture production, inscriptions, use of concrete/virtual models, and records of eye fixations and saccades.
I also contribute chemistry content knowledge in a collaboration with Dr. Leilah Lyons in the development of a multi-player tabletop game to teach museum visitors chemistry concepts related to atomic bonding.
Playing piano; Baroque, late classical, and early romantic music; Learning, speaking foreign languages; Programming; Exploring uses of new technologies; Cycling throughout Chicago.
Throughout my teaching experience, I have been inspired by ideas that I believe hold great potential for improvement in the standard ways and means of science and math education. This career choice is in part a call to action from a fundamental tension: students increasingly have access to excellent technological resources for learning, but pedagogy must expand beyond Papertian technocentrism (i.e., technology as a panacea for effective learning).
The Learning Sciences embraces that technology affords learners unique opportunities to experience and explore domain content, but also stresses the need to systematically research how learning–especially situated in authentic contexts–can be rooted in theories of cognition and human interaction.
By becoming a Learning Sciences researcher, I can spend my career creating principally-researched software learning environments that provide students and teachers with improved learning outcomes and teaching practices.
Each researcher at the LSRI has come to the Learning Sciences and UIC for unique reasons. Our Learning Sciences program stands out because it positions researchers to investigate learning in a discipline (e.g., how do chemists learn?). Also, many projects in the LSRI share UIC’s commitment to improve urban education and the prospects of underrepresented populations. Did I mention we are located adjacent to downtown Chicago?
Personally, I came for the calibre of the faculty. The Learning Sciences Research Institute is an independent department led by a team of researchers who also hold faculty appointments in their respective domain areas. Dr. Mike Stieff’s work to directly impact teaching and learning in his and his colleagues’ organic chemistry courses speaks to the immediacy with which LSRI and UIC are working to improve STEM education.